As coronavirus cases spread across the U.S. and worldwide, medical experts continue to recommend that people socially distance and avoid meeting in large groups. Many health care companies are leading by example and implementing remote workforces into their business structure. A remote medical workforce helps keep our valued healthcare employees safe, so they can keep serving patients in need during these tumultuous times.
However, the remote environment is completely different from an in-person office, and leadership teams have been forced to find adaptable, flexible and innovative solutions to keep operations running smoothly.
If you’re leading your team in the remote environment, we’ve put together a list of key components that are necessary for a successful and effective remote experience.
1. A Unified Communications and Collaboration Platform
A flexible communications platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams is invaluable for remote workforces. It’s easy for messages to get lost and projects to get off track when team members are sending information and sharing documents in different places (through email, phone, text, etc.). But tools like Slack and Teams offer a platform for centralized communications and collaboration. Team members or departments can form groups to chat, plan projects, and share and edit content together. Slack and Teams can also be used for team-wide announcements and direct messages. Both platforms offer calendar integration with Google Calendar and Outlook so that you can receive meeting reminders and see when other team members are in a meeting.
A centralized platform streamlines communications and helps employees stay in touch frequently throughout the day.
2. A Project Management System
Like a unified communications platform, a centralized project management system is an essential resource for remote, dispersed workforces. Robust project management provides tools for building projects, assigning/unassigning tasks, setting due dates, sending updates and reminders, sharing files, setting timelines, and allocating employee time and resources. To promote employee efficiency in a remote setting, it’s crucial to have a platform for complete overview, management and tracking of all projects. Additionally, having set schedules, due dates and task assignments can help keep employees focused and on-track while they’re working from home.
If your health care business doesn’t already have a project management system, now is the time to do the research and invest in one of the many options out there.
3. IT Support
Be prepared to encounter technical difficulties. Expect that internet connections will fail; software applications will crash, and microphones will mysteriously stop working. During video meetings or trainings, have one or more people record the session in case a team member has technical difficulties and can’t join the call. Make sure all team members know how to get in touch with your IT staff if they run into an issue with their computer, network, or software programs. Remind employees to set a status update on Teams or Slack if the internet is down and they aren’t available online.
4. Security Protocols
Dispersed workforces can be a nightmare for implementing airtight security protocols. Healthcare workers are duty-bound to uphold HIPAA regulations and protect their patients’ personal information, which can become a challenge for employees working off their own laptops at home. If your business has the means, the best way to ensure privacy and security is to provide employees with a designated work laptop that has built-in security protocols.
Unfortunately, that isn’t an option for many companies who had to pivot quickly to accommodate remote work. Make sure your employees have clear instructions for the programs they can use at home and how to use them safely to support HIPAA compliance.
Create a virtual private network (VPN) that employees should use to access online company resources, records and programs. A VPN is an encrypted network that prevents private information from being accessed on an unsecure home network.
5. Overcommunication, Overcommunication, Overcommunication!
Don’t be afraid to overcommunicate. When your workforce is remote, you can’t walk across the office to follow-up on a project or clarify a point from a meeting with a colleague. Without in-person interactions, you’ll need to take extra steps to gage how team members are progressing on projects, what obstacles they’re running into, or who is becoming overwhelmed by the workload.
Communicate with your team throughout the week using Slack or Teams, email, a quick phone call or a video chat. Schedule weekly team-wide and department-wide video meetings to discuss on-going tasks, answer questions and make sure everyone is on the same page moving forward. If you’re initiating a new project, host a kick-off video meeting instead of sending email instructions so that team members have the chance to ask questions and clarify information early. Schedule one-on-ones with team members to get a more in-depth look at how tasks are progressing and what obstacles need to be addressed. Video meetings (especially with video turned on!) can help teams stay connected, engaged and on-track throughout the week.
6. Grace and Compassion
The most important tool in your toolbox right now is grace. At the beginning of 2020, nobody could have anticipated where we would be now. Along with adjusting to the remote work environment, your team members are juggling childcare, virtual schooling, caring for elderly relatives, and a host of other unexpected circumstances. Lead with compassion, empathy, and flexibility whenever possible.
Check in and check in often with your team. Ask colleagues how they’re doing and if there’s any way you could provide additional support or assistance. Encourage your team members to turn to leadership if they’re feeling anxious, depressed, stressed or overwhelmed. During challenging times, it’s important that workers feel safe and supported by their employers and colleagues. Empower your workers to ask for help when they need it. If you have the capacity to offer employees more flexible scheduling so they can care for their families and personal health, do so.
Use the tools at your disposal to support your workforce’s mental and emotional well-being during the work week. Create fun channels on Slack or Teams where employees can share silly photos of their pets or engage in social “water cooler talk” online. You can also set up virtual lunches where employees can eat lunch and chat on camera. Encourage everyone to take breaks during the day and move around, take a walk, pet the dog or do some light stretching.
Contact Advanced Care Hospitalists to Learn More
ACH is a Lakeland-based hospitalist group providing comprehensive patient care in community hospitals across Central Florida. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, services, providers or becoming a partner facility, please call us at 863-816-5884 or fill out a contact form online.